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from issue no. 09 - 2004

Faith illuminated his political action

Blessed Robert Schuman? The diocesan phase of the canonical process is over

by Edoardo Zin

Robert Schuman

Robert Schuman

On Saturday 29 May, the vigil of Pentecost, Monsignor Pierre Raffin, archbishop of Metz (France), officially closed the process for the beatification of Robert Schuman, the “father of Europe”. A canonical investigation was requested by a group of French, German and Italian Christian laity who, together in the Association “Saint Benedict, patron of Europe”, founded on 15 August 1988, asked for a canonical process to be opened to ascertain whether Robert Schuman had practiced the Christian virtues in a heroic manner.
The process opened on 9 June 1990. After hearing about two hundred witnesses who had known and frequented Robert Schuman, and after conducting a critical analysis of all the public and private writings of the politician, the inquiry was transferred to a theological commission charged with investigating whether a spiritual and moral contradiction to the faith existed in these writings. «This work of rigorous, almost scientific, investigation shows with what care the Church means to proceed before committing its infallibility in a declaration of sainthood», - said Monsignor Raffin. And he added: «the Church not only wants to propose to the people of God incontestable models, but it wants the cult of the saints to be guaranteed free of all error and reflect only the paschal mystery of Christ».
The volumes of the testimonies and the writings, which fill 50 thousand pages and weigh 500 kilos, were transferred to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints and will be examined by theological censors. It is awaited that God, through the intercession of Robert Schuman, bring about a miracle which will demonstrate His omnipotence.
Robert Schuman, French minister of Foreign Affairs, on 9 May 1950, in a historical declaration, proposed that the States which had been in combat during the Second World War should pool their production of coal and steel, the cause of centuries of enmity between France and Germany. From the reconciliation between these two countries the first European Community was born and from it, successively, the actual European Union. In this action, Schuman was helped by two fervent Christians, Konrad Adenauer and Alcide De Gasperi, as well as by a layman who respected the religious choices of the three: Jean Monnet.
Robert Schuman exercised his political commitment as an apostolate: he applied in public life the principles of his private religious practise.
Brought up in a two culture ambience, French and the German, Schuman experienced in his own life the drama of Franco-German hostility. The sad consequences of this absurd enmity were the inspiring motives of his declaration of 9 May: «World peace cannot be guaranteed without creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it. To maintain peace the contribution of a vital and well-organized Europe is indispensable».
The commitment of Robert Schuman cannot be understood, in the real depth of his being and doing, without an awareness of his profound inner life. Christian faith and political action were a single thing in him, despite the distinction between the two spheres: his faith determined all his commitment and illuminated his political action.
Schuman with Monsignor Angelo Roncalli, Apostolic Nuncio to Paris, 5 February 1953

Schuman with Monsignor Angelo Roncalli, Apostolic Nuncio to Paris, 5 February 1953

The spirituality that animated Schuman set the Word of God which directed all his actions at its center.«From it», he said, «I learn to think like God, instead of repeating the slogans of the world». From the Eucharist, which he frequented every day, he drew comfort for the difficulties of the day, from his mother he inherited an authentic fervor for the Madonna. From contemplation and prayer he learned to feel himself an instrument in the hands of God: «We are all instruments, even if imperfect, of Providence which uses them for purposes which are above us», he wrote in 1960.
Schuman had an active awareness of the role played by Christianity in the formation of democracy. In the last book he left, Pour l’Europe, he writes: «Democracy owes its existence to Christianity. It was born the day man was called to realize in his daily commitment the dignity of the human person in his individual freedom, in the respect of the rights of everyone, and in the practice of brotherly love towards all. Never, before Christ, had similar concepts been formulated».
In the European Parliament on 19 March 1958 he was to say: «All the European Countries are permeated by Christian civilization. It is the soul of Europe which must be restored to it». And in Pour l’Europe: «This togetherness [of peoples] cannot and should not remain an economic and technical undertaking. It must be given a soul. Europe will not live and will not be saved except to the degree in which it has awareness of itself and of its responsibilities, when it returns to the Christian principles of solidarity and fraternity».
We do not know whether Robert Schuman will be venerated as a blessed and, successively, as a saint. When the Church declares saints it does not offer “supermen”, it does not claim saints for itself but it proclaims the only sanctity – that of God – which manifests itself through the saints whom he bestows upon us, sanctity that is also written in the life of every man, in all of his situations, in all of his doings.
The Church today has need of lay saints who can serve as models for the faithful, of saints who have lived daily sanctity according to the Gospel, without anything extraordinary manifesting itself in their lives. Robert Schuman testifies for us that politics can also be a path of sanctity. If today they are so denigrated, it is because sin, rooted in the heart of man, warps them, as it warps everything.

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